The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) is proud to announce the appointment of Nicole Houston Johnson. Ed. D and Loretta Woolard Blanks as School Turnaround Director

January 10, 2020

For Immediate Release (12/23/19)

The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) is proud to announce the appointment of Nicole Houston Johnson. Ed. D and Loretta Woolard Blanks as School Turnaround Director


​Nicole Houston Johnson, Ed. D led Leonard Sixth Grade Center as a participating principal in School Turnaround, prior to becoming a TRI School Turnaround Specialist. In 2008, under Nicole’s leadership, Leonard Sixth Grade Center received a rating of “Recognized” from the Texas Education Agency, the 2nd highest achievement rating in the state of Texas. The campus reading gap that was as wide as 20 points was reduced to less than 9 points. Her campus received the Gold Performance Award for 51% of the students scoring Commended in Reading. Since arriving to The Rensselaerville Institute in 2008, Dr. Johnson, or Dr. J,” as she is affectionately known has done such notable things as; Supported AAA Busch and Compton Drew Middle Schools in St. Louis, MO which had double digit achievement gains in both Reading and Math (Busch- Reading +19.7, Math +39.1; Compton Drew – Reading +21.1, Math +18.2); Supervised specialists at ten schools as Project Manager in Hawaii;   Served as specialist for Maili Elementary school which made AYP for the first time since 2005; Assessed the effectiveness of the Executive Principal Leadership Academy (EPLA) at Ohio State University in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education; Provided professional development on leadership characteristics and best practices. Coordinated and developed the Alternative Certification for School Administrator Program (ASCAP) in partnership with Hawaii Department of Education and Chaminade University of Honolulu resulting in greater student success and completion. Overseeing the selection and training of candidates and evaluation of mentor supervisors to ensure continuous program improvement; Provided strategic planning for Kachere Juvenile Detention Center in Malawi, Africa to improve teaching methods, key learning priorities, effective lesson preparation and options for differentiated instruction, and partnering with Hawaii Department of Education to develop 25 principal turnaround specialist to support peer principals to raise student achievement.  Identifying and developing instructional and support service results framework for Horizons at Greens Farms Academy and Leading school turnaround in Pensacola, Florida as part of The Rensselaerville Institute’s ‘Educational Operator’ turnaround Team.


When asked about her new opportunity, Dr. Johnson said, “I am excited about the opportunity; continuing the goal of improving life chances for children!”  



Loretta Woolard Blanks became a principal in 1991. Loretta led her first school, Dumfries Elementary, in making marked improvements including a 23% improvement in fourth grade writing scores in one year. Loretta continued her work as a turnaround principal at John Small Elementary School. Test scores improved from 56% of the students being proficient in reading and mathematics to 81% being proficient, and the school being recognized as a School of Distinction. Loretta has been with The Rensselaerville Institute since 2006 and has Coached principals in Sparkplug Competencies including: supporting successful classrooms, Using assessment data to inform instruction, Aligning Resources, Using brand and message to influence change and build school support, Creating effective teams, providing training for school staff in using benchmark data to inform instruction, and providing training for school staff in reading and math based on school benchmark data and Leading school turnaround in Pensacola, Florida as part of The Rensselaerville Institute’s ‘Educational Operator’ turnaround Team.. 


“Increasing life chances for young people has long been my passion.  I look forward to my new role and the opportunities it gives me to support School Turnaround specialists, principals, teachers and students as we build schools where everyone achieves.”


As members of The Renselaerville Institutes’s School Turnaround Team, both individuals have helped low-performing schools in Florida, Hawaii, Missouri, North Carolina, Atlanta, Ohio and more.  They both have conducted regular campus visits conferring with leadership team/individual administrators to assess student achievement progress. Collaboratively develop instructional goals and formulate course corrections resulting in greater student success; Coached and observed leadership in various roles and provide recommendations for improvement; Reviewed student data to establish academic targets; Communicated weekly to discuss concerns and challenges that impact students’ achievement.  Create monthly reports detailing observations and recommendations for next steps to ensure effective and efficient programs to support the success of students.


In their roles Mrs. Blanks and Dr. Johnson, will report directly to The Chief Turnaround Officer, Mildred Toliver and will assume responsibilities as diverse as; The School Turnaround Director is responsible for the overall delivery of services within school turnaround which would lead to increased student performance.  The Director identifies the issues, provides training, and ongoing support to the specialists assigned to the project.  The Director supervises a team of specialists in various locations where a contract has been signed. Directors provide specialists with leadership and support in working with challenging situations and in capitalizing on successful relationships.  Directors assist in building a supportive learning community within each project for the specialists. Directors jointly own, with the Specialists, the targets set for achievement at each school.  Directors are responsible for assuring they create effective conferences for principals. The creation and implementation of the following conferences are the responsibility of the School Turnaround Directors: Turnaround conference, Mid-Year Course Correction Conference, and Assessment and Learning Conference. Directors are responsible for providing additional support in the form of web conferences, website materials, and social media. Directors also play a supportive role in new business development for School Turnaround.


“Loretta and Nicole, Dr. J’s, accomplishments within the educational community, organizational experience, school turnaround/school improvement experience and passion for student achievement make them a solid team for the job” said Rodney M. Fuller, President, The Rensselaerville Institute. Mr. Fuller, continued, “The promotion of these two individuals is such a solid win for The Institute.  We are fortunate to have them and it signals to the industry The Rensselaerville Institute’s deep commitment to carrying out our mission, particularly in the area of School Turnaround/School improvement”.


About School Turnaround at The Rensselaerville Institute:

School Turnaround is an intervention designed to reverse decline in failing public schools in as little as one year.  Since 2001, School Turnaround has turned around over 270 schools in 47 school districts around the country.  Our core promise is to improve life chances for young people by raising academic achievement in durable ways.  In contrast to gentle change programs that seek to change the culture, methods, and procedures of schools, School Turnaround believes that kids should only be in first grade once.  We help school leaders immediately improve academic achievement at persistently low-performing schools.  Students improve an average of 10.2% in reading and math in one year and 100% of our partner schools meet or exceed targets in 2 years or less – guaranteed.


About The Rensselaerville Institute: For almost 50 years, The Rensselaerville institute has been tackling—and solving—problems that most other organizations talk about.  We pursue success and eschew exceptions and excuses.


Our programs—Community Sparkplugs, Results Consulting, School Turnaround, Enabling Partners, The Center for Results Leadership and more—work because of our tried and tested frameworks, collaborating with partners, we set goals, meet milestones, and achieve measurable, meaningful and memorable outcomes.


Discover more about The Rensselaerville Institute’s half-century of making a positive difference in our nation and its communities by visiting our website at:


Also, please join us in congratulating Nicole Houston Johnson. Ed,D and Loretta Woolard Blanks on their promotions as School Turnaround Directors at The Rensselaerville Institute.

For more information, please contact: Mildred Tolliver, Chief School Turnaround Specialist: 

In Faith, 




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